Monday, January 21, 2008

Mud, glorious mud

  • Walked: 20 January 2008
  • Distance: 7.5m
  • Total time 2.5 hrs
  • Terrain: 100m ascent (lowest point to highest point)
  • Summary: bridleway alongside Foremark reservoir, past Bendalls Farm, footpaths to Milton and back to Hartshorne along the other side of the reservoir.
  • map: Explorer 245

Do you remember the scene near the start of Monty Python's Holy Grail, where under a grey, drizzly sky the king meets some peasants slopping around collecting mud?

I'm not keen on that portrayal of England, but that's just how today felt (minus the king and the peasants). We've had an awful lot of rain recently, leading to muddy and flooded paths. I notice that exactly a year ago we were having a lot of rain too. Unlike that day, today wasn't sunny. In fact the weather forecast was fairly dismal, but I didn't want to stay indoors all weekend, and so we made a break for it when it eased off a bit.

We decided that bridleways were a fairly safe bet, but were completely wrong. Farm vehicles, horses, trail bikes have churned them up into a quagmire. The fields that we did cross today were actually better to walk on than the bridleways.

The sky was heavy and grey, but I did spot more colour than last week:

That's holly, with a few red berries; copper beech, which holds onto its dead coppery leaves all winter so that it can make eerie rustling noises in a breeze; and gorse, which is apparently green and spikey all year round, and always in flower too.

Here's the mud:

Getting onto the road was something of a relief. This fascinating feature is the underneath view of tree roots:

Despite the horrible weather, there were the usual wonderful South Derbyshire views.

I usually get frustrated about wonderful views looking very flat and uninteresting through the viewfinder, so here's my first attempt at stitching together a panorama. Despite the rubbish joining of the images, I'm pleased with the result, and will try this technique some more.

It did rain a little before the end. More like heavy drizzle than rain, but it wasn't a cold day, and so it was bearable. I noticed it hanging in the hedgerows like jewels:

Click the map below, and then each image attachment in turn to see all photographs from today's walk.

Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service. Map image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Cloud Trail Linear

  • Walked: 13 January 2007
  • Distance: 14m
  • Total time 4.5 hrs
  • Terrain: very flat with surfaced paths all the way
  • Summary: linear walk along Cloud Trail and Trent and Mersey Canal starting at Worthington.
  • map: Explorer 245

I've used the Cloud Trail before as part of a circular walk. The beauty of cycle paths and canal towpaths is that they're flat, surfaced and easy to walk. Although the seemingly optimistic weather forecast had turned out to be remarkably accurate, this is now the middle of winter and we've had lots of rain recently, so the unsurfaced rights of way would consist of puddles and knee-deep mud.

A linear walk means walking for a certain distance before turning about and walking back again. I don't think this is such a bad thing, because a route looks so different from the opposite direction. On any walk, it's a good thing to turn around occasionally and take in the view behind you. It's sometimes a pleasant surprise to find that it's more beautiful than the view in front of you.

There's another big advantage to linear walking; if you're on a time limit, you can time your walk almost to the minute by walking for exactly half of the available time before heading back. Today I walked along the canal until just past Swarkestone, making a round trip of 14 miles.

To make things more interesting today, I decided to keep my eyes peeled and see how many signs of life I could spot and photograph at this apparently very dead time of the year. I'd love to write that there's a remarkable amount of life if you look for it, but unfortunately I can't! Not counting farm animals, exotic things in people's gardens, and things that were too quick for me, like the odd pigeon and rabbit, here's what I saw:

That's ivy, a squirrel, some hawthorne berries and some fluff on a tree. (I'd be grateful for some help identifying this.) The ivy was still in berry in many cases and remarkably prolific, growing all over anything which stands still. I thought I was so lucky to photograph the squirrel, but as I walked on I found that there were lots of them on this part of the route.

Back to the walk. This is the start of the cycle route - which is National Cycle Route number 6. They're well signposted.

Breedon Church is in view for most of this walk. Here we're crossing the A42 and can see the church on the horizon. The cycle route follows an old railway line, which doesn't cross the A42, and so you have to skip up to this road, over a bridge and along the 42 for a little way before re-joining the disused railway.

Being an old railway, the route goes under many wonderful old bridges like this one.

Although these sliver birches are leafless, they looked so dramatic reflecting the direct sun against a blue sky.

We've had a lot of rain, so the Trent has 'burst its banks' (as they like to say on the news) and was occupying the flood plain either side. It's difficult to pick out the usual course of the river.

I picked up the canal towpath here. It's still part of cycle route 6, and so the towpath surface is good.

Click the map below, and then each image attachment in turn to see all photographs from today's walk.

Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service. Map image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Snarestone, Odstone, Newton Bergoland, Swepstone

  • Walked: 6 January 2007.
  • Distance: 8.7m
  • Total time 3 hrs
  • Terrain: fairly flat with a slight climb
  • Summary: circular walk starting from Snarestone, to Odstone and Swepstone.
  • map: Explorer 245

Today was the perfect winter walking day. The sky was crystal clear and a beautiful blue, the sun was shining, and although cold (there was frost on the ground in places all day today) the air was dry and reasonably still, so it didn't feel too cold.

I last did this walk about a year ago

Much of this 9-mile circular walk is on road, but they are quiet roads with decent views.

This is where our path joins the Ashby canal. Canal towpaths are good for walking, they're flat and always passable, regardless of the time of year. The Ivanhoe Way is well-marked.

This particular stretch of the Ivanhoe Way from Shackerstone to Odstone is a bit muddy at the best of times. I remember having trouble getting under this bridge once before, but this time it was completelyy flooded. Luckily it wasn't too difficult to get up the bank, over the bridge and back down the other side.

Once past the bridge, the track is still horribly muddy. It's been used by 4-wheel-drives, and so is really churned-up with deep ruts and huge puddles. I'm going to contact LCC because this is a stretch of the Ivanhoe Way and the Leicestershire Round but it has become very unpleasant for walking.

The track takes you uphill for a bit. Still very muddy, but the views from the top of the hill, just before arriving in Odstone, are wonderful. The sky had started to get a little bit cloudy, and the sun was beginning to set. This made for a great-looking sunset. At Odstone, this walk switches to road. It was quite a relief to be on a good surface again!

After Swepstone, we cross some very young National Forest (just planted).

A few more fields takes you back to the starting point at Snarestone.

The stats and route below were generated with Meander.

Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service. Map image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.